Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Four Years Later

Four years ago, Steven and I exchanged vows in front of our family and friends. Its amazing to see how far we've come and how much we have experienced in just four years. We've added two amazingly beautiful children to our family. We've spent over 15 months apart (spanning 4 deployments and a TDY). We've lived in Germany. We've weathered four surgeries, six weeks of bed rest, three PCS moves and, most currently, Steven on crutches. We are so blessed to have such amazing family and friends who have supported us and pushed us to be better people. And we look forward to spending the next few years close to our family and making new friends.

Today we celebrate our anniversary together, which all military families know is not a given. We will spend time with our children and may be lucky enough to have a few moments alone to reflect over the past and look forward to the future. We'll do something "special" like dinner or a movie when time allows (and Steven's foot heals a little more), but we know that everyday we get to spend together is special and not to be taken for granted.

The most thing we will do today, is something we do everyday: say 'I love you.' And hope th
at our love shines into the lives of our children.

I love you Steven.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

New Car

Here it is, my new ride!

Airport Adventure: Germany to USA

Here it is, the tale of my Airport Adventure, as best as I can describe it having relaxed a few days.
Saturday morning came quickly. I thought I had everything under control, but as soon as Greg and Matt showed up at the door to help me load the cars, everything went so fast. Luckily, I only packed one thing in a suitcase that I needed and, of course, that one was on the bottom. After loading, 3 Alwines and the other family of 4 that was on my same plane (thank goodness!), into 3 cars, we headed off in the snow for Frankfurt Airport. We then were able to off-load our luggage onto 5 carts, oh we also had a dog, and found our ticket counter. Or so we thought. Here is where I would have lost it had I been travelling alone. Heck, I nearly lost it anyway. The man at the United line told me we'd have to check in with Lufthansa. He said we had to move, now. I asked for some help because I couldn't push the two luggage carts and my stroller. He rather rudely asked me how I thought I was going to manage on my own. I was shocked he would treat someone like this and didn't have a chance to tell him, "because I thought my husband would be here and not in the hospital with a broken leg!" before he moved my cart about 10 feet and stalked off.
The airport was so packed, due to previous cancellations, that you couldn't even tell where one line ended and the other started. We had absolutely no idea where to go. But, we did need to check in Taunus, the dog. Thankfully we were able to sweet talk that agent into checking all of us in. As the 6 of us (2 babies, 2 preteen girls, and 2 moms) found the end of the security line, we were 15 minutes from the boarding time. Then a wonderful man came through the line and started picking out the families with small children. Score! We were escorted to a second line that was merging with the very front of the main line. The only thing missing was my friend's husband with my second car seat. Oh, did I mention I was bringing both car seats on the plane? He showed up, but without the car seat. After another quick trip back to the check in, he met us in line and said, they made me check the car seat. No worries, it was Abigail's and she's easy to hold and pass around.
Security was actually not that bad, just logistically challenging, but since Declan can walk and one of the agents scooped up Abigail until I had the stroller assembled again, it was probably the easiest part of the process. We were just two passport control points from our gate, with about 20 minutes until take-off. I pushed through passport control with the double stroller and then headed for the gate. Hoping I would make it in time and would be able to keep them boarding until the other family got there. When I hit the gate, I saw we had a 30 minute delay. Never in my life have I been so happy to see a plane delayed!
After some time to have snacks, feed Abigail, change diapers, and a quick phone call to Steven to see what his status was, we were being called to board first since we had the babies. Yes! Another jump to the front of the line because I have small kids. :) We got all 6 of us on the plane and then I was told Declan's car seat was not allowed. Cue meltdown #2. I fought with them explaining that in September I flew on this airline, this plane with this car seat. Eventually they relented. We had a relatively painless flight. The kids were good, and both fell asleep about 20 mintues before we landed.
After landing in Dulles, it was all downhill. We made it through passport control easily and managed to cram our baggage onto 6 carts (American baggage carts are smaller than European ones!) and get through the customs line. We had added a customs check due to the dog, but it was quick. Next came the best part of our trip, walking through the last door and seeing the grandparents! Two sets of grandparents extremely happy to see their respective grandchildren and equally happy to assist their favorite daughters-in-law.
Oh, the adventures the army gives us!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Final(ish) PCS Step

Well, just when we thought we were on track to leave Germany on time, the inevitable happened... an Alwine ended up in the hospital. No, not me this time, Steven! While rushing to get those last army things done Thursday afternoon, he slipped on the ice and broke his leg/ankle in 3 places. And then it started snowing, of course. So, in the midst of the snow, I walked up to the hospital to learn he would need surgery, sometime within the next week. So, long story short, the kiddos and I flew home on Saturday and Steven is in Landstuhl living it up until his surgery. Then he'll fly back here and we'll do a late visit from Santa and start the next leg of our adventure, no pun intended.
(And for those of you curious about just how I got home from Germany with 6 bags and 2 babies, stay tuned. That trip deserves a post all its own.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

PCS Update

Greetings from the American Arms! For the second time in 3 years the Alwine family is "living" in the American Arms Hotel. This time, with double the people! We have a nice suite, with a sofa bed and crib for the kiddos. We awoke this morning to a Winter Wonderland (again). Today we hope to get the rest of our things out of our apartment and either mailed off or transferred back to the hotel. Then the next step is cleaning the house. Luckily, I've been working on this over the past week so it should not take me more than a few hours. After that, its the last minute errands, shipping the car, and saying goodbye to friends. We leave here on Saturday.

In other very exciting news, Steven got promoted last Friday! That's SSG Steven now! Check out the profile for the new family picture!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

2010 PCS - Step 1

This past week we completed Step 1 of the 2010 Alwine PCS. We packed our household goods up on Thursday and Friday. What an experience! First, let me say how absolutley wonderful our packers were. They were polite, professional, and fast! The only hiccup was the weather. It snowed and was so cold the levers and controls on the lift froze. But, after some hot water, it was up and working. They loaded all of our boxes and furniture onto this lift and crammed it all in 6 crates. (Just a comparison, we arrived in Germany with 2 crates.)

When preparing for the packers, I had to separate out what was going in our big shipment (on a boat, think 60 days to get to the US) and what was going in our smaller, express shipment (think 30-60 days on an airplane - similar to the way the mail gets here). This was a challenge as the things I wanted to keep here the longest were also the things we used everyday. As I was dividing out the toys, I had to explain to Declan that his Legos had to stay in the laundry room because they were going to our new house on an airplane instead of a boat (like his bed). This immediately made sense to him (because he knows he is going on an airplane). He spent the next few days carrying Monkey with him everywhere and each time he put him down, he did so in the laundry room. At one point, he even tried to put Abigail in the laundry room.

I was initially concerned about how Declan and Abigail would react to an empty house. They love it! There is more room to play and Declan thinks sleeping on an air mattress is a novelty. And, of course, the both continue to climb all over Daddy.

Step 2 - wait for news on our departure date and ship the car.
Stay tuned...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Daycare Adventure

Thursday and Friday of this week, Declan and Abigail went to hourly daycare. To my surprise (and concern) they were put in the same room on Friday. Now, this is absolutley no different from how they are at home everyday. Until you add in all the other kids ranging from 6 months to 3 years! This was my concern, thats a huge age range. My second concern was a repeat of the PWOC Potluck Pandemonium of 2010. In this case, I left Abigail in the crib in the nursery to take a nap and brought Declan downstairs to eat with me. Wow. Big mistake. Screaming, crying, refusing to walk, "Mommy, go get Abi NOW!" Needless to say, I was concerned that if they had to split up the kids on Friday, Declan would go postal.

I returned to pick up the children and was informed that they were both angels. I was not surprised. Not one bit. It warmed my heart to hear about how Declan would wander over to Abigail's play area to check on her throughout the day. And how he helped Miss Virginia get Abi's diapers and bottles and how he wanted to feed her squash. And that the first thing he did when he got up from his nap was "go check on Abigail."

I can only hope that when she grows up she realizes how lucky she is to have such a wonderful big brother.

Here is Declan, enjoying his enchiladas, in the hat he made at daycare.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Christmas Markets

Cold. Rainy. Cold. Snowy. Cold. Dark. Cold. Dreary. These are some of the words we can use to describe Germany in the winter time. However, each Advent season there are bright lights and hot Gluhwein to ward off the dampness of the winter season: Weihnachtsmarkt!

The most famous Christmas Market in Germany, is without a doubt, in Nuremberg. And, for this reason, you will never catch me there. I've been to that market place, there is no way you'd have enough space to breathe, let alone enjoy it. I prefer the smaller markets, to include the little towns who go all out only one weekend during the season. I also prefer to go during the day (especially if going with children) and during the week. The crowds are much thinner at that point, sometimes you can even navigate your stroller around the market.

Some of the best things about Christmas markets include Gluhwein (or Kinder Punch for those underage or pregnant), hot potato pancakes with fresh apple sauce, rides for the kids, and lots of things to buy. I also absolutely love that the birth of Christ plays a role in each market.